My last weekend, Felix and I went to Tenjin Matsuri. This is one of the larger festivals in Japan. Over one thousand years old, it is dedicated to the gods or art and learning. It is known as one of the worlds greatest boat festivals.
Boats are hand paddled down the river alight with old fashioned paper lanterns. Paddlers wear traditional Japanese happi coats, mostly in white with head sweat bands, shorts and a lot of enthusiasm! As the boats pass by, impressive displays of fireworks decorate the sky above. I was warned by friends it’s very busy, so having to wait two trains from Osaka/Umeda station wasn’t unexpected. Funnily enough, though, it was just one stop! We wondered if we should have just tried to walk as we were smooshed and squashed between perspiring, hot people in the early evening of a hot, humid Osaka day. Nonetheless, we made it and followed the masses as they made their way to the river. It was difficult to find somewhere to see, but ended up on the ramp/lower end of one side of a bridge, directly below us was land, not river yet. The fireworks could be spotted through the greenery of a large tree and between the tree and the bridge we had a short but decent view of the boats.
The fireworks seemed sporadic, leaving plenty of time to chat, try to stay cool, and people watch. After a while, the crowd seemed to die down, so we made our way up onto the main part of the bridge. It was perfect timing and an amazing view! We soon realized the pauses between fireworks was actually because there was a second fireworks show down the river. The second fireworks lit up Osaka Castle as it was just beside the fireworks.
We were rewarded with a spectacular Japanese fireworks show: the finale was phenomenal, the cloud of smoke from the gunpowder wafted through the sky for several minutes following the beautiful pyrotechnic display. In the finest of Japanese form, and one of my favourite parts of going to see Japanese fireworks (or sunsets on Peace Boat!!!), the audience clapped their hands in appreciation at the conclusion! And it certainly was worth the applause! Spectacular!!! Fireworks in Japanese is hanabi. 花火 The first character is flower and the second fire. So, fire flowers. Such an apt name. Much more beautiful and descriptive than the English fireworks, don’t you think?
We did walk back to Osaka station and a nice if warm night to explore an unseen part of Osaka.
We also went to a movie on the weekend. We saw “Inside Head,” a Pixar movie and an afternoon showing. It was really nice to be in the air conditioned theatre, and fun to pick our theatre seats when purchasing tickets! With a slight moment of alarm, just as the movie was starting I realized we were in a matinee and there were many children there. Children can’t read kanji….. Subtitles for English movies are in kanji. You get where I am going with this? I whispered in the dark quietly that I hoped it was in English. A mini preview short was in Japanese, about a lovelorn volcano, so I waited with bated breath to see if the main feature was in English. It wasn’t but we decided to try it out. As per Japanese movie going protocol, I tried really hard to stifle my laughter but Pixar did a great job and there were certainly some audible guffaws! Cried, too, but managed to do that silently.
I would say that I probably understood about forty to fifty percent of the words, content and grammar. A real accomplishment, I’d say for a self-professed poor language student! 😝 The basic story was about a girl named Riley who moved from a rural, cold place in the U.S. which at this moment, I can’t remember the name of, to San Fransciso. She is an eleven year old only child who has a loving relationship with her parents, a best friend and plays hockey. The move away is difficult for her, as her Dad seems to be working quite a bit, she misses her friend and her intro at school didn’t quite go as planned and she got really embarrassed and didn’t make friends right away which she had hoped. Meanwhile, inside her head, there is a control station where five emotions are played by some animated characters: fear, sadness, happiness, anger, and some green character I couldn’t quite figure out. The sparkly happy/positive character was always pushing sadness away and as the two of them fought, they ended up breaking part of the control room and being shipped off to some other part of the brain. The quest inside was for sadness and happiness to find their way back (with the help of an awesome elephant imaginary friend) so that fear, anger and the green emotion (don’t think it was envy) weren’t the only emotions controlling the now volatile preteen!
We walked around afterwards and got to the Settsukyo area, though it was too late to do the hike. We went up the path to the river, sat on rocks as the river babbled by and the green jungle kept us cool, and waded in the water. Soooo refreshing on such a hot day.
It was so special to share my town (and so many other great experiences) with an amazing person. When in Hokkaido, it was so great to share Ishikari with my beloved mom twice and my fabulous friend, Erin. Now I have shared Takatsuki and much exploration in the area with Felix. So grateful!